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Brexit round-up – 30/08/19

Welcome to this, our latest Brexit round-up. Each week we provide a succinct round-up of the latest news surrounding the Brexit process, so you can keep abreast of the issues which are likely to affect your organisation.

Attempt to block Parliament suspension is underway

Seventy five parliamentarians have begun a legal action in Scotland to prevent the prorogation (shutdown) of Parliament and are seeking an injunction. A Scottish judge has refused to order a temporary halt and the full hearing will be next Tuesday.  Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the parliamentarians, argued that a previous case, involving Telegraph owners the Barclay brothers, saw them successfully challenge the validity of Privy Council advice to the Queen and noted that in a separate case it was decided that there was an “obligation on the sovereign to recall an order of prorogation” if the court was satisfied there had been an “abuse of power.”  The parliamentarians are hoping that the action will lead the court to rule that shutting down Parliament ahead of Brexit would be “both unlawful and unconstitutional” and would have “irreversible legal, constitutional and practical implications for the United Kingdom.”

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Decision to suspend Parliament causes outrage

Following Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament which was approved by the Queen, there has been an angry backlash from across the country.  An e-petition on the government’s website demanding Parliament not be suspended reached more than a million signatures in less than a day and protests began in Westminster.  The decision has also led to many resignations which include Conservative peer Lord Young of Cookham resigning from his role as government whip in the House of Lords and Ruth Davidson quitting as leader of the Scottish Conservatives. Opposition parties issued a joint statement demanding that Boris Johnson backtrack on his plan.

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Queen agrees to suspend Parliament

Boris Johnson asked the Queen to suspend Parliament as a Queen’s speech would be required to outline Boris Johnson’s plans and the Queen has agreed. Three Conservative members of the Queen’s Privy Council took the request to suspend Parliament to the Queen which she approved. It is established precedent for Parliament to be suspended before a Queen’s speech however House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said it was a “constitutional outrage” and Senior Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve called the move “an outrageous act.” It is suggested that the request was made in order to stop MPs from passing legislation which would prevent a no-deal Brexit. The suspension will take place no earlier than Monday 9 September nor later than Thursday 12 September and will last until Monday 14 October. Boris Johnson denies allegations that the suspension was motivated by his desire to force through a no-deal Brexit.

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Opposition party agree strategy to block no-deal Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn invited opposition party leaders to a meeting to discuss ways a no-deal Brexit can be avoided and the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Change UK, Plaid Cymru and Green Party have all attended to discuss his proposals. If he wins a no confidence vote Corbyn said he intended to delay Brexit, call an election and campaign for another referendum. The opposition MPs have now agreed that they will try to block a no-deal Brexit by passing legislation in Parliament and also confirmed that using a vote of no confidence remained an option.

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Alternative plans for the Northern Ireland backstop

A team of experts have drawn up a plan to replace the Northern Ireland backstop which proposes that the UK and EU are free to have distinct regulatory systems and customs regimes but that the UK and Ireland make it a criminal offence to knowingly export goods across the Irish border hat would break regulatory rules on the other side. The plan also proposes to set up a network of EU Trade Centres in both the UK and Ireland where goods from the EU or the UK would be processed before leaving the relevant territory which would prevent the need for customs checks at the border. The plan has apparently drawn “considerable interest” but it is unknown whether it has been shared with EU officials or the UK Government.

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“I think it’s the job of everybody in Parliament to get this thing done” says Johnson

Speaking at the G7 summit in France, Boris Johnson said he was “marginally more optimistic” about striking a new deal with the EU on Brexit and reiterated that it was the job of Parliament to deliver Brexit. He did not however confirm whether he would suspend Parliament to stop it preventing a no-deal Brexit. Speaking on Brexit he went on to say “I think it’s what the people want, I also think, by the way, it’s what our friends and partners on the other side of the Channel want – they want it over.”

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UK will not nominate new Commissioner to the EU ahead of Brexit

As the UK prepares to leave the EU on 31 October, the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU Sir Tim Barrow has written to the EU to confirm that the UK will not be nominating a candidate for the 2019-2024 College of Commissioners. The new Commission will not be taking up office until 1 November at which point the UK should have left the EU and therefore we will not need a new Commissioner. Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the EU Steve Barclay said “We are leaving the EU on 31 October. As a departing member state we will not be involved in the new Commission so it would be a distraction to nominate a new Commissioner. This is part of the UK’s ongoing preparations for Brexit which allows us to focus on our future relationship with the EU while continuing to explore new opportunities with partners across the world.”

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Experts warn freedom of movement cannot end on Brexit day

Following an announcement from the Home Office that EU freedom of movement would end immediately on Brexit day, migration experts have said that this is not possible as the UK has no system to work out who is legally in the country and employers would have no way to tell whether or not the EU national have arrived before or after 31 October. This is because currently EU nationals do not have to register their arrival in the UK so the Home Office does not have any records of when they arrived. Madeleine Sumption, director of the Migration Observatory, said “Even if the Government knew exactly what it wanted the post-Brexit immigration system to look like, it wouldn’t be possible to implement it immediately after a no-deal Brexit. That’s because any new restrictions on EU migration can’t be enforced unless UK employers know which EU citizens have been here for years and which ones arrived post-Brexit and have to comply with the new immigration regime.”

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Further £9 million for Brexit preparations

The Government has announced £5 million is to be made available for local councils which have or are near to a major air, land or sea port to ensure they can continue to operate efficiently when the UK leaves the EU. The funding can be used to buy in additional staff and expertise when necessary but will not be used to fund the infrastructure of ports as this will be provided by the Department for Transport. There will also be £4 million for local resilience forums in order develop plans for Brexit and support additional staffing costs.  Local Government Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said “We have stepped up our preparedness significantly in recent weeks, including by asking every council to appoint a Brexit Lead Officer. Now we are releasing an additional £9 million of additional funding today to help local areas get ready for Brexit, whatever the circumstances.”

For more information please click here.

If you have any questions about any of the issues which are raised, or would like to discuss your own organisation’s options in the lead-up to Brexit, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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